Whistleblowing and Complaints Policy
Art History Link-Up (“AHLU”) has adopted this whistleblowing and complaints policy (the “Policy”) and the accompanying procedure on whistleblowing to enable staff and volunteers to raise concerns internally and in a confidential fashion about fraud, malpractice, health and safety, criminal offences, miscarriages of justice, and failure to comply with legal obligations, inappropriate behaviour, safeguarding or unethical conduct, or an attempt to conceal any of the above. The Policy also provides, if necessary, for such concerns to be raised outside of AHLU. The Policy also provides guidance on how to raise more routine complaints that do not reach the threshold of whistleblowing.
1. ABOUT THIS POLICY
The Public Interest Disclosure Act gives legal protection to employees against being dismissed or penalised by their employers as a result of publicly disclosing certain serious concerns. The Trustees have endorsed the provisions set out below to ensure that no staff or volunteers should feel at a disadvantage in raising legitimate concerns. AHLU is committed to conducting its work with honesty and integrity, and expects all staff and volunteers to maintain high standards. However, all organisations face the risk of things going wrong from time to time, or of unknowingly harbouring illegal or unethical conduct. A culture of openness and accountability is essential in order to prevent such situations occurring and to address them when they do occur.
AHLU’s policy on whistleblowing is intended to demonstrate that it:-
- Will not tolerate malpractice;
- Respects the confidentiality of staff and volunteers raising concerns and will provide procedures to maintain confidentiality so far as is consistent with progressing the issues effectively;
- Will provide the opportunity to raise concerns outside of the normal line management structure where this is appropriate;
- Will invoke AHLU’s disciplinary procedure in the case of false, malicious, vexatious or frivolous allegations;
- Will provide a clear and simple procedure for raising concerns, which is accessible to all staff and volunteers.
Individuals should not use the whistleblowing procedure to raise grievances about their personal engagement with AHLU as staff or a volunteer. If you are uncertain whether something is within the scope of this procedure you should seek advice from the CEO or a member of the Trustee board.
This procedure is to enable staff and volunteers to express a legitimate concern regarding suspected malpractice within AHLU.
Malpractice is not easily defined; however, it includes allegations of fraud, financial irregularities, corruption, bribery, dishonesty, acting contrary to the code of conduct, criminal activities, or failing to comply with a legal obligation, a miscarriage of justice, or creating or ignoring a serious risk to health, safety, safeguarding or the environment.
A whistleblower is a person who raises a genuine concern relating to suspected malpractice within the organisation. If you have any genuine concerns related to suspected malpractice affecting any of AHLU’s activities (a whistleblowing concern) you should report it under this procedure (see below).
If staff and volunteers feel unable to raise an issue with AHLU or feel that their genuine concerns are not being addressed, they may use other whistleblowing channels, such as:
- Public Concern at Work (an independent whistleblowing charity) (helpline: (020) 7404 6609, email: [email protected], website: www.pcaw.co.uk).
- The NSPCC whistleblowing helpline (tel: 0800 028 0285 or email: [email protected]).
We hope that individuals will feel able to voice whistleblowing concerns openly under this procedure. However, if you wish to raise a concern confidentially, we will make every effort to keep your identity anonymous. If it is necessary for anyone investigating the concern to know your identity, this will be discussed with you. If there is evidence of criminal activity, then the Police will in all cases be informed.
We do not encourage individualtsto make disclosures anonymously. Proper investigation may be more difficult or impossible if we cannot obtain further information from you. It is also more difficult to establish whether any allegations are credible. Whistleblowers who are concerned about possible reprisals if their identity is revealed should discuss this with the CEO or Chair of the Board of Trustees and appropriate measures can then be taken to preserve confidentiality. If you are in any doubt you can seek advice from Public Concern at Work, the independent whistleblowing charity, who offer a confidential helpline. Their contact details are set out above.
4. RAISING A WHISTLEBLOWING CONCERN
You are at liberty to raise a whistleblowing concern to the CEO, Chair or Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees. A meeting will be arranged with you as soon as possible to discuss your concern. You may bring a companion to any meetings under this procedure. Your companion must respect the confidentiality of your disclosure and any subsequent investigation. You may be required to attend additional meetings in order to provide further information as the concerns raised are investigated.
Any concern raised will be investigated thoroughly and in a timely manner, and appropriate corrective action will be pursued. AHLU will make all best endeavours to investigate and resolve concerns within 25 working days. You will be kept informed of progress and, whenever possible and subject to third party rights, informed of the resolution. However, sometimes the need for confidentiality may prevent us giving you specific details of the investigation or any disciplinary action taken as a result. You should treat any information about the investigation as confidential.
Please note that AHLU’s Safeguarding (Child Protection) Policy should take precedence with regard to any issues regarding the safeguarding of students or young people.
5. EXTERNAL PROCEDURES
Where all internal procedures have been exhausted, individuals shall have a right of access to an external person/body. This may include (depending on the subject matter of the disclosure) HMRC, the Charity Commission, the Health and Safety Executive and/or the Local Authority Designated Officer (where the disclosure relates to a child protection issue).
It should be noted that under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, there are circumstances where an individual may be entitled to raise a concern directly with an external body where the individual reasonably believes :
- That exceptionally serious circumstances justify it;
- That AHLU would conceal or destroy the relevant evidence;
- Where they believe they would be victimised by AHLU;
- Where the Secretary of State has ordered it.
6. PROTECTION FROM REPRISAL OR VICTIMISATION
No whistleblowing individual will suffer a detriment or be disciplined for raising a genuine and legitimate concern, providing that they do so in good faith and following the whistleblowing procedures detailed in this Policy.
7. OTHER COMPLAINTS
In the event that any individual has a complaint or grievance relating to AHLU, its trustees, staff, volunteers or other affiliated persons, of the activities of the charity which falls short of the threshold for a whistleblowing process, AHLU’s Chair of the Board at [email protected] is available as a first port of call to receive and address such concerns.
If the person raising the complaint feels it is inappropriate to raise the issue with the Chair, or is otherwise uncomfortable speaking to the Chair for any reason, they can alternatively speak to the Chief Executive, Rose Aidin, at [email protected].
8. STATUS OF THE POLICY
AHLU may update or amend this Policy at any time. The Trustees will review this Policy annually.